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Looking At John Lewis At Congress Welcome Challenge For Nikema Williams

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Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin (left) speaks with State Senator Nikema Williams (right) at the funeral service for the late Rep. John Lewis at Ebenezer Baptist Church on July 30, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. Lewis, a civil rights icon and fierce advocate of voting rights for African Americans, died on July 17 at the age of 80. Williams was chosen by the Georgia Democratic party to replace Lewis on the ballot in November.
Alyssa Pointer/Pool/Getty Images

Plus, Williams doesn’t shy away from what Lewis deemed “good trouble.” The first time Newsweek interviewed the state senator was in 2018, when she was arrested at the state capitol for protesting that every uncounted ballot be tallied in the governor’s race.

“I am a constant reminder to them and to myself that I am operating in a system that was not designed for me, not for someone that looks like me,” Williams said at the time.

Williams and nine others who were arrested that day have filed a federal lawsuit challenging a state law that makes it illegal for any person “recklessly or knowingly to commit any act which may reasonably be expected to prevent or disrupt a session or meeting of the Senate or House of Representatives.” The demonstrators fear being arrested again if they engage in protests against voter suppression in the November election.

If elected in November, Williams said some of her top priorities are establishing a national response to the pandemic (she contracted COVID-19 in early March) and advocating for universal health care. But all of these things are contingent on fair elections, she said, which is why she will work to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

“Thinking back to that 2018 arrest, I never imagined this would be our next conversation,” Williams told Newsweek. “I’ve come a long way in two short years.”

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